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The History of Surrey’s Public Libraries

The Beginnings – The Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL)

In 1930 most of the rural municipalities in the lower mainland, like Surrey, had no library service. The early history of Surrey’s Public Libraries goes back to Dr. Norman F. Black, who, as chairman of the
Public Library Commission
in 1927, organized a study of library needs in British Columbia. This produced a report recommending a new idea – the formation of a library district as a unit for rural library service. The Library Commission sought and received a grant of $100,000 from the
Carnegie Corporation of New York
to test the idea over a five–year term. In 1929 the Commission selected the Fraser Valley for the experiment. Known as the
Fraser Valley Public Library Demonstration, the project started on March 1st, 1930 with
Dr. Helen Gordon Stewart, a former member of the Public Library Commission and former Victoria Public Library head, as director. She was “the first trained librarian west of Toronto” and promoted the library vigorously throughout the valley. She organized it, with the assistance of the Commission and various local committees, and guided it through the Demonstration years.

Project offices were at 31 Elliot Street in New Westminster with Chilliwack being the main branch and distribution centre. In October 1934 the headquarters was moved to Abbotsford.

In December 1933, electors in 20 of the 24 municipalities and rural school districts voted to support a co–operative library service when the Demonstration was finished. After an agreement was signed by local representatives to this effect, Order–in–Council No. 13 dated June 22nd 1934 proclaimed the lands within the 20 municipalities and rural school districts to be the
Fraser Valley Union Library District. Founding members were the cities of Chilliwack and Port Coquitlam; the Township of Chilliwack; the Districts of Kent, Langley, Maple Ridge, Matsqui, Mission, Pitt Meadows, Sumas and Surrey; and the rural school districts of Abbotsford, Barnston Island, Concord, Deroche, Dewdney, Hatzic, Hope, McConnell Creek and Popkum. At the ceremony held in Chilliwack on September 28th 1934, the assets of the Carnegie Demonstration were officially turned over by Mr. Norman H. Lidster of New Westminster, the chairman of the Public Library Commission, to Reeve Noel Booth of the Township of Langley, first chairman of the Fraser Valley Union Library. The legacy of Dr. Helen Stewart’s leadership in the Fraser Valley was a healthy young library service. Mr. C.K. Morison was appointed first regional librarian in September 1934 and continued until 1940 when he resigned to become Provincial Librarian and Superintendent of the Public Library Commission.

Succeeding Mr. Morison was R. Bruce Carrick who was regional librarian during the hard–pressed war years. Mr. Carrick later became head of the Spokane Public Library. In 1946 he was replaced by Peter Grossman who had driven the book–van in the early Demonstration days and who later became Provincial Librarian of Nova Scotia and head of the Vancouver Public Library. When he resigned in 1948, he was succeeded by Ronald Ley who served for nearly 24 years before retiring in 1972.

In 1951, an amendment to the Public Libraries Act changed the name of the library service to the
Fraser Valley Regional Library. In 1953, a new 6,300 sq. ft. headquarters building was opened on Montrose Avenue and a second storey was added in 1960. In October 1979, headquarters again moved to larger premises, this time to its present 20,400 sq. ft. building on south Fraser Way in Abbotsford.

Struggle and stress, mainly caused by lack of operating funds, have been an integral part of the regional library’s life since the early days. Stress also resulted when the Township of Richmond withdrew from the library district in 1976 at a time when services were stretched severely to cope with expanding library needs.

In 1978, included in the regional library district were the cities of Langley, Port Coquitlam and White Rock; the Districts of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Delta, Kent, Langley, Maple Ridge, Matsqui, Mission, Pitt meadows and Surrey; the Town of Hope; the Village of Harrison Hot Springs; and the rural areas of school districts 32 (Hope), 33 (Chilliwack), 34 (Abbotsford), 36 (Surrey), 75 (Mission), and 76 (Agassiz–Harrison).

In 1978, Surrey was still a member of the Fraser Valley Regional Library with headquarters in Abbotsford. There was a Reference and Public Library on 135 th Street in Whalley and there were five branch libraries at Cloverdale, Guildford, Newton, Ocean Park and Port Kells. A projected $1,000.000 library was to be completed by the end of 1979, as Surrey’s Municipal Centennial Project, and was built on a piece of Municipal property in Guildford Town Centre.

Two former librarians at Cloverdale Library cut into a 50th anniversary cake. Edith Bhjornson (left) worked at the library from 1965–1978, while Beth Flintoff worked there for a number of years in the mid 1960s. This year, 1980, marks the 50 th Anniversary of the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

With rising costs within the FVRL system Surrey felt it could develop a more cost effective system as a stand-alone District Library system. A public referendum was held to determine if the people of Surrey wanted their own separate library service.

Surrey will withdraw from the Fraser Valley Regional Library and establish a library of its own, voters decided at Saturday’s election. The By-Law to withdraw had 8,125 “yes” votes to 6,164 “no’s”. But the bylaw authorizing the municipality to set up its own system drew 9,462 in support and 4,845 opposed. The odd thing was that those voting for the municipality to establish its own system were more numerous than those voting for withdrawal and led to some opponents claiming electors had not understood the questions. The percentage was 57 for withdrawal (with 50% needed) and 66–1/2 percent for establishing an autonomous library system (with 60 % required). Alderman Easton, Chairman of the council’s special committee on library services, said he was surprised “so many people were satisfied with the service today,” though he praised the work done by FVRL Executive Director Jim Craven in the last year. Easton was “thrilled” that Surrey will be determining its own future.
Peace Arch News: Wednesday, November 24, 1982.

Surrey’s withdrawal from the FVRL put added financial pressure on the Regional System as it remained to service a more widely distributed public with fewer funds.

Surrey will purchase 70,000 Fraser Valley regional Library books at $10 a volume, council decided Dec. 20. This comprises half the book stock in Surrey Libraries. Under a 1978 book agreement the municipality gets the other half for $1 on withdrawing from the FVRL. Payment will be at $250,000 a year over a three year period beginning in 1983. The $750,000 total cost includes $50,000 for magazines, periodicals, vertical files and miscellaneous equipment now in Surrey branches. It also includes access to the FVRL’s cataloguing computer data base.
Peace Arch News: Dec 29, 1982.

On March 17, 1983 the Surrey Public Library opens its doors with branches in Guildford, Whalley, Newton, Ocean Park and Port Kells. Some of the Library’s services milestones were:

  • 1984: the Library system is computerized.
  • 1985: a microfiche catalogue is produced.
  • 1987: publication of the five–year plan to act as a guidepost for library development.
  • 1989: Library wins the John Cotton Dana award for excellence in library promotion.
  • 1990: over 140,000 Surrey residents have library cards.
  • 1991: programming that highlights the ethnic diversity of Surrey is a big hit.
  • 1996: work begins on the Master Facilities Plan for 1997–2001.
  • 1997: a new computer system is installed; Internet access is made available to the public.
  • 1998: Surrey Public Library homepage is developed. Check it out at: http://www.spl.surrey.bc.ca
  • 1999: SPL receives a Citation for Citizenship Award from the Ministry of Citizenship.
  • 2004: SPL wins a second Cultural Diversity Award.
  • 2005: Honourable mention: Community Learning Awards. There is a dramatic increase in the use of Electronic Classrooms and hands on computer training sessions.
  • 2006: SPL wins a third Cultural Diversity Award, also awarded an Honourable mention in Community Learning Awards.
  • 2007: A new Strategic Plan developed for the ears 2008 to 2010.
  • 2008: SPL celebrates 25 years of service to the community. Over 260,000 members have Surrey Library cards.

Surrey Public Library 25th Anniversary

Cloverdale Public Library

The first library 1930–1941

Almost immediately, with the formation of the Fraser Valley Union Library, the people of Cloverdale wanted a library. Donations of money to help establish a service poured in. The Junior Organization of the King’s Daughters, the Native Sons of Canada and the Women’s Institute were among the clubs that first contributed. The elementary and high school teachers participated, too, as well as individuals.

The first library

Finally, a small Fraser Valley Public Library branch was opened in a rented building on Robinson Avenue West. It was located about one block west of 176A Street on 55A Avenue. It was formally opened at 3:30 pm on Thursday Nov. 6, 1930. It was a tiny building, about 10 X 20 feet. The opening notice informed the public that the library would be open to the public the next day, but they could get books out on opening day, Thursday.

Cloverdale Librarian

The first librarian was Mrs. Johnson, who became Mrs C. Hough. she was followed by Miss Alma Partington, who in turn was followed by Mrs. Rosa Robinson. In this picture Mrs. Robinson is sitting at her desk with the library stacks in the background.

The community must admire the determination of the first librarian and library volunteers. Conditions were not always easy; the early library premises seem to have been cold and draughty.

Among the Library equipment list in 1934 was: “2–1/2 Rick Dry Fire Wood” and “One small axe”. This gives us a mental picture of the librarian, coaxing the sheet iron stove to give out a little more heat in that icy winter of 1935, when the snow lay four feet deep throughout Surrey.

These premises must have been inadequate, for within a year, Mr. S. Cunningham, the Secretary of the Cloverdale Library Committee, is writing to Surrey Council requesting a site for a new library. The lot on the corner of Broadway and King Streets was donated to Surrey Municipality by Joe Shannon when he laid out the town site of Cloverdale in the early 1900s. At that time it had a flowing artesian well on it, and this well was to provide the water for the village.

I am instructed by the Cloverdale Library Committee to respectfully ask you council to permit them to acquire the lot situated at the corner of Highway and North side of Broadway as a site for the Cloverdale Public Library. The site in question (30′ X 100.2′) we understand belongs to the Municipality and adjoins the other Municipal lot on Broadway known as the Cloverdale Public Park. The Library committee is of the opinion that such a site if acquired on reasonable terms, would be an exceedingly appropriate situation for the Library, and would permit its being administered on far more economic lines than in a rented building as at present. S. Cunningham Secretary, Library Committee.

A response letter from Surrey, dated Oct. 20, 1931, turned down the request for the lot. The District was in the early years of the Great Depression and had many more priorities to deal with.

The Second Cloverdale Library 1941–1954

Painting the Library

This was the Cloverdale branch of Fraser Valley Regional Library in 1941. There wasn’t even a washroom for staff, let alone the public. Surrey Junior Chamber of Commerce members were busy on a paint-up work bee in this 1941 photo. This building was a small wooden structure located on 58th Avenue. Miss Alma Partington was in charge from 1942 until her retirement in 1969.

Location of Library

This picture of the Cloverdale Library was taken about 1939. It was located at the corner of Broadway (58th Ave.) and Pacific Highway (176th Street). The library is the second building from the left. The long building on the right is the Liberal Hall.

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The Third Cloverdale Library 1954–1976

In 1954 Surrey did provide a more adequate building on the lot requested. A brick building was built for Cloverdale library on the corner of 58th Avenue and 176 A Street.

Sept. 15, 1954 – Cloverdale’s new library had been opened for service. This is the small brick building which still serves the district’s needs. The building was designed by the public works superintendent John Furiak, with construction by municipal crews. Landscaping and lawn was being provided by Cloverdale Kinsmen, with the Kinettes donating reading room furniture. The Kinsmen Club had pledged to provide heating equipment. This library served from 1954–1976.

The lot, on which the library was located, was on the corner of Broadway and King Streets. It had been donated to Surrey Municipality by Joe Shannon when he laid out the town site of Cloverdale in the early 1900s. At that time it had a flowing artesian well on it, and this well was to provide the water for the village.

Mrs. Rosa Robinson

Mrs. Rosa Robinson, community librarian at Cloverdale, followed Alma Partington as librarian in 1969. She retired at the end of this month –
Leader Oct. 11, 1978.

A Surrey resident since 1935, she has been a librarian for almost twenty years.

Cloverdale Branch Library is one of the finer buildings in Cloverdale. It is built of brick, centrally located at the corner of Broadway and King Street, and set on a lot with lawns and a few trees. The present library site was dedicated for the use of the public by Joe Shannon when he laid out Cloverdale town site. Cloverdale has had a branch library since the Fraser Valley Library was formed, with the aid of Carnegie Foundation grants, some thirty years ago. The new building was erected by Surrey Municipality in 1954.

Surrey Leader: Aug. 18, 1960.

The present Cloverdale Library is on 58th Avenue, at 176 A Street. Last month Surrey council spent $65,000 to acquire an additional lot (and house) to add to the public parking at 59th and 176 A. Surrey now owns all that block, except the one house next to the library.

In 1971 the people of Cloverdale organized a petition asking for a larger building for the Cloverdale Library. With the planned construction of a new Police headquarters, the old 1912 building would become available for Library service. The 1912 building became the Cloverdale Library in 1976 and operated until 1988.

Renovations approved for Cloverdale Library
– Surrey Municipality is going to spend a quarter of a million dollars to save the police headquarter building from collapsing. (See Police) During the shoring up process, police will move back into the olds municipal hall immediately adjacent. This will hold up the renovation of the 1912 building, which is to be established as Cloverdale’s new Library.
Surrey Leader: undated clipping.

Estimated cost for the Library renovations was $100,000, with the two floors to provide library space and the large basement area for book storage.

Cloverdale Library

In November 1974 the Surrey Municipal Council allocated $100,000 to convert the 1912 former Hall for use as a library. In February 1976 it was funded up to $118,000, with the Municipality to be the contractor using Municipal crews and employing sub–trades directly. The 1912 building opened as Cloverdale Library on Saturday, Dec. 11, 1976. The Cloverdale Library, in the 1912 building, was declared a Heritage Site by the Municipality on December 15, 1980, by, By-Law No.6442.

These three ladies have been the community librarians over the years, since Cloverdale branch of the Fraser Valley Regional Library was opened in 1930. At the left is the present community librarian, Mrs. Rosa Robinson; Miss Alma Partington; Mrs. Ethel Hough. The latter was the librarian when Cloverdale branch was opened.

In 1980 two former librarians at Cloverdale Library cut into a 50 th anniversary cake. Edith Bhjornson (left) worked at the library from 1965-1978, while Beth Flintoff worked there for a number of years in the mid 1960s. This year, 1980, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

By 1980 the growth of the district made the 1912 building much too small for the resources needed for today’s branch library.

Fraser Valley book van

The limited number of Libraries and the distance to access them made the Fraser Valley Book Van invaluable. It operated on a scheduled basis so that book enthusiasts could plan to meet the van at strategic locations on a regular basis. This picture was taken in front of the grandstand at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Cloverdale Library 50th Anniversary

The 70th birthday of the Cloverdale Library Heritage Building was celebrated with an open house and unveiling of a commemorative plaque Oct. 7, 1982. Here, recently retired librarian Peggy Vetter, (centre) is about to enjoy some birthday cake and coffee after the ceremonies.

Present Cloverdale Public Library 1988 to present

Cloverdale Library 2009

The Cloverdale Branch is a modern two-story facility located in the heart of Cloverdale. The 11,000 sq. ft. wheelchair accessible building features a bright and spacious interior. A red brick and concrete exterior is complemented by a variety of flowers, shrubs, and evergreen trees. It’s a comfortable environment where people of all ages can come to read and relax study and learn interactively, or to find information on anything under the sun.

With plans to move the Police and the Provincial Court out of Cloverdale into a new complex near the Municipal Hall Complex, the former Court House on 176 A Street became available for an enlarged Library. With extensive renovations the Old Court House opened as a Cloverdale Library on Saturday, Oct. 15, 1988. (See Justice System)

Work is now underway in Cloverdale to transform the former Justice Building into a new facility for the Cloverdale branch of the Surrey Public Library. The spacious 10,000 square foot library will provide a larger Children#39;#s Department, a specially designed area for teenagers with study space, magazines, books and records, and a bright and comfortable reading area with magazines and newspapers. There will also be a meeting room for library and community use.

Surrey Public Library Staff will be welcoming the public to the new Cloverdale Library on Saturday, August 6 at 10 am. The new library, is located at 5642 – 176 A Street, in the building that formerly housed the Court House. It has emerged to become a bright, airy library with more space and improved services for the growing community. The soon–to–be–former library on 56 th avenue will be closed from Tuesday, August 2 to Friday, august 6 to allow for the transfer of materials and equipment into the new building.

The Now: Feb 17, 1988.

Conversion of the soon–to–be–relocated Justice Building on 176 A Street in Cloverdale to a state–of–the–art Public library could be completed as early as next January says Surrey director of library services Stan Smith. “The new building will significantly improve library services in Surrey” said Smith. “We’ll have more room for books and seating in an attractive, functional building. And we’re getting the equivalent of a new building for less than half the cost.” Cloverdale’s present library, housed in the 1912 Surrey Municipal Hall building, will become a seniors’ centre, confirmed Parks and recreation administrator Butch Green.

The Now: July 22, 1987.

In 1989, a year after the Cloverdale Library opened, the Surrey Public Library won the John Cotton Dana award for excellence in library promotion.

White Rock Public Library 1944–1958

First White Rock Library

The first White Rock Library was contained within one of the holdings cells of the White Rock Police Station. This is the small building at the approach to the pier. Today this is a popular lookout over Semiahmoo Bay.

The seed for a White Rock library was planted in 1919 when the Great War Veterans Association declared good intentions to include a community public library in their clubhouse to be erected adjacent to the pier. The second attempt rose out of a library needs study conducted in 1927, which resulted two years later in the founding of a conceptual regional library in the Fraser Valley through a grant of $ 100,000 from the Carnegie Institute. In March 1930, Dr Helen G. Stewart was appointed director of the project, and by October a book van stop had been inaugurated at White Rock, with Dr. Stewart meeting with residents to arrange a White Rock branch depot. In a matter of months, on 21 November 1930, a White Rock “sub-branch” library opened in a rental unit. Fitted up and furnished by the White Rock Women’s Institute, the tiny book room, containing 700 volumes, opened two days per week for a total of four and one half hours under the supervision of librarian Mrs. George Thrift. Soon a library committee was formed. Membership exceeded 300 after three months, increasing to 500 and a circulation of 8654 books by the end of year, at which time the library committee initiated a campaign to raise the rent for new quarters. In the fall of 1932, the library moved to a room in the North building facing the pier. With the Carnegie test period coming to an end, a move got underway to establish a union library. In 1933, electors in 20 of the 24 municipalities and school districts voted to support a co–operative library service when the project was finished. By adopting Bylaw 478, Surrey became one of the founding members in the creation of a Union Library district in the Fraser Valley.

All local committees in Surrey had struggled to finance the library system until the Fraser Valley Union Library took over, and were thankful to turn over their assets of the project on 28 September 1934. Reeve Noel Booth of Langley became the first chair of the Fraser Valley Union Library, the first regional library system in Canada. White Rock carried on as before, except that the library moved across Washington Avenue to the detention cell of the police station in 1935. Margaret Sharp and Mrs. McCallum took turns looking after the library when Mrs. Thrift went on holiday. In 1937, when Mrs. Merklin resigned as secretary of the committee, she was replaced by Eric Streatfeild. Plans were made to build a verandah onto the building.

By 1943, FVUL could boast 38,000 books, serving 12 incorporated municipalities, cities and villages, and nine rural school districts. The per capita assessment was 35 cents. Not surprisingly, the existing space increasingly proved inadequate to accommodate its swelling number of patrons. The library committee started formulating plans of ways and means to make a new building a reality, and Mrs. Lashley Hall and Dorothy Crane were enlisted to help Mrs. Thrift with librarian duties. Mrs. J. T. Kendall succeeded Mrs. Thrift as librarian in 1945 and three years later, when business hours were extended, Miss Crane was taken on as assistant.

The space factor weighed heavily. Library tax covered only library service: that is, paid for the librarian and the books. Although White Rock library was entitled to a full–time librarian and one part time assistant, there was no room for two. Salvation arrived in June (Library month) 1951 in the form of White Rock Kinsmen Club, which undertook to raise $1,800 to renovate the old police station to a modern library, providing four times the space currently in use. The plan called for the use of the existing foundation and walls to contain the library, reading room and special facilities for children. Beneath, at ground level, another need was accommodated in the form of a comfort station. Despite their enthusiasm, the Kinsmen fell far short of their financial objective. Reconstruction work was authorized by Surrey Council in September, and in November the library opened five days a week. The Kinsmen then began the completion of the interior.

White Rock Library pp181–182
Lorraine Ellenwood

White Rock Library tender

When the White Rock Kinsmen were unable to meet their financial objective for the reconstruction of the old Police Station, Surrey stepped in. This document was the Call for Tenders to complete the conversion to a library. Upon completion of the building the Kinsmen began the decoration and furnishing of the interior.

White Rock Library pp181–182
Lorraine Ellenwood

By the following June the floors were covered with linoleum, and the walls finished in pastel green. Canvassing had raised $774 towards the cost of materials and $500 in labour contributed by club members. Official opening of the new library took place on 30 July 1952. The staff now consisted of Mrs. Magdalene (Maggie) Kendall, librarian, and assistants Elizabeth Keeling and Mrs. Loughnan. Keeping pace with the times, in October 1953, Miss Keeling conducted the first Children’s Hour, hosting 65 children, which pointed out the need for small chairs.

White Rock Library pp181–182
Lorraine Ellenwood

FVRL bookmobile

To serve residents who could not climb the steep hills to patronize the library, FVUL van driver Herman Keyes accommodatingly commenced calling at a stop on Hilltop. Additional stops were scheduled in east White Rock and Ocean Park/Crescent Beach.

During the fall 1954, the story hour developed into a weekly series, Hugh Skelton chaired the book review program and the White Rock Arts and Crafts League mounted art shows, the first one an exhibit of local artist Fred Pickles’ paintings. Before long, other organizations began to use the building for meetings. Mrs. Grace Munro was on staff by 1957, replacing Mrs. Loughnan, who had died in 1954. Hugh Skelton still served as chairman of the book review club. The new city’s tax levy remained the same as before secession (60 cents per capita), amounting to $3,263.40. However, facilities and maintenance required arbitration. In October 1957, White Rock Council made application to be included in the Fraser Valley Regional Library District; in December, Alderman Lilian Browne was appointed Council representative to the FVRL Board for 1958.

It would be nearly 20 years before the library acquired a facility designed for its particular service.

White Rock Library pp181–182
Lorraine Ellenwood

Mrs. M. T. Kendall is custodian of White Rock branch assisted by Miss Elizabeth Keeling and Mrs. G.R. Munro. White Rock”s population for the Library district based on the 1956 census was 5,439.

Whalley Herald: Feb. 5, 1959.

Newton Public Library

The site of the first Newton Library was Lew Jack’s service station. His son Art donated the building for a Newton Fire Hall. The first two fire halls were located at this Newton location. The first and only Volunteer Fire Chief was
Art Jack. Art was hired full time as a Captain on June 1st 1959 and served his full career at Hall 10, until his retirement on September 30th 1978.

First Newton Fire Hall

The picture on the left shows the first two fire halls in Newton. The station on the right was originally the Lew Jack’s service station. In this picture the new hall was not yet open.

First Newton Library

Newton community ratepayers’ Association has been advised that the old fire hall will be available for a permanent public library when the new fire hall is completed. The community is now being served by bookmobile, but residents find the service inadequate.

Sun: June 26, 1961.

When the second fire hall was build next to the original hall, the site became available for a public library. The building was reconstructed and refurbished to open as a Fraser Valley Regional Library Branch. In 1983 the Newton Library became part of the Surrey Public Library Service. With the opening of the Patkau Newton Library in 1992 the old building was converted to the Surrey Public Libraries Administration Office that same year.

The award–winning Newton Library was designed by Patkau Architects in 1991. Patkau also designed the neighbouring Newton Seniors’ Centre. The two buildings form a civic complex within the Newton town centre. This 14,700 sq. ft. Library has a unique roof design allowing large amounts of daylight to reach the interior.

In 1992, the Newton Library opened in Surrey. This is a striking building, designed by Patkau Architects. Architectural historian Harold Kalman has written: “The bold library is a boldly angular structure that distinguishes itself from the dull sameness of the instant Surrey townscape. The inverted gable roof is supported by assertive angled glued–laminated wood columns and beams. Two of these frames form a portal at the entrance. The canted aluminum box on the roof contains the air–conditioning equipment. The interior features: a large, open, and naturally illuminated reading room; public areas where the roof rises high, and intimate areas where it dips low.” Architectural groups visit regularly to see it. The Patkau Architects won the 1994 Governor General Award for Architecture for their work with the Newton Library.

Port Kells Library

At 1,200 sq. ft. Port Kells Library is the smallest branch in the system and serves a primarily rural community.

The Port Kells’ Library, at 88 Ave. and 192nd Street, is Surrey’s oldest library still in its original location. Originally built as a post office in the early 1960s, Port Kells became a library in 1969 and the original Post Mistress
Peggy Worsely was the first librarian. Life at the Library hasn’t changed much since the early days.

Surrey/North Delta News Leader: Wed. April 30, 1997

Maintaining the Port Kells library has been a way of life for 16 years for head librarian Sharon Ward, who along with typical tasks, often found herself being a social, tutor, friend and second mother to library clients.

Guildford Public Library

Guildford Library

This 25,800 sq ft. Branch is Surrey Public Library’s main library. In addition to the general services and resources available at all the Surrey Public Libraries, the Guildford Library has a large map and atlas centre, daily newspaper centre, an extensive business collection and a large Reference collection. The Outreach Department and the Collections Services Department are located on the ground level of this building.

Initially, with the opening of Guildford Town Centre, the Guildford branch of the FVRL was located on the ground floor of the Town Centre.

Expansion, building and renovations is underway at Guildford Town Centre this summer so Guildford Branch Library, presently located in the lower south Mall must move. The library will not disappear however, until the new Guildford Library is built in 1979. Guildford town Centre has provided a trailer for the library to move into. It will be situated on or near the site of the future new library, 15105 – 105 Ave., across from Eaton’s parking lot. Guildford Library has been in the lower south Mall of the Guildford Shopping Centre since 1971 and now it will close its doors to the public at the old location.

Messenger: Wed. August 2, 1978

In 1978, Surrey was still a member of the Fraser Valley Regional Library with headquarters in Abbotsford. In 1971 a plan to reorganize Library service in the Fraser Valley was endorsed at a library trustees’ meeting in Matsqui Municipal Hall in November. The plan provided that the main reference Library for the entire Fraser Valley would be built at Guildford. Headquarters and office administration, however, would remain in Abbotsford. Insert picture 3 of Guildford Library under construction The new Guildford Library is nearing completion. The Library, located north of Eaton’s will be officially opened November 28 th.

Leader: Nov. 14, 1979

Guildford Library Nov. 14, 1979

This was Surrey’s Centennial project, a library and community facility at Guildford Town Centre. The $2 million building housed an auditorium, tourist information bureau and Chamber of commerce offices as well as the library. The Library took up two floors. The main floor also contained a 7,000 square foot auditorium which can be divided into three rooms. The auditorium has a film screen, but no stages. It will be available to community groups for meetings and social events.

Surrey Centennial |Library opens in Guildford.

An initial opening of the new library was held Nov. 28, 1979 and the facilities had been open for business since Jan. 2, 1980. The $1.7 million library covers 24,000 square feet, will include an 8,000 book reference section, a 350 seat meeting room and the offices of the Surrey Chamber of commerce which will act as booking agent for the meeting area.

Messenger: April 2, 1978

In 2001, Surrey Public Library held a grand opening celebration for the renovation and expansion of Guildford (8000 sq. Ft. Added) was held in the fall.

Ocean Park Library

In 1927, the Community Association spearheaded the drive to have a library in Ocean Park. The Provincial Government offered any community the opportunity of a traveling library. 75 books would be loaned for a period of six months, provided that ten men in the community would sign the application form, and the community is responsible for the return of the books, paying the express on same. This topic was discussed at the November 9, 1927 meeting of the Association and “was felt to be a splendid idea by all present.” Further, it was moved that the 10 men who sign the application form become the library committee of the Association. Mr. Henry, the post master, offered to write to Victoria for the application form and also take charge of the library in the Post Office. At the December 10, 1927 meeting, Mr. Henry reported that he’d “received word that the books had been shipped from Victoria but had not yet arrived at Crescent.” Since there was a motion carried at the January 7, 1928 annual meeting that the “…regulation post up at the Post Office governing the library be adopted by this meeting,” it is safe to assume that the library was operational by that time.

Researcher, Anne Helps

Bookmobile c1940

The creation of the Fraser Valley Union Library, later the Fraser Valley Regional Library, provided regular book mobile service to Ocean Park. This greatly enhanced the holdings of the Library with its regularly scheduled visits. This picture was taken after the service began in 1940.

1953 painting of Ocean Park

The importance of the FVRL book van is shown in this painting where local residents are availing themselves of the service. This picture by
Margaret Hardy
was painted in 1953 and shows the book van in front of the local grocery store in Ocean Park.

Ocean Park Library

The Ocean Park Public Library opened on May 4, 1972. The new building had a Spanish theme which was in keeping with the District policy of themes for different regions of Surrey. This building operated from May 1972 until the spring of 1999 when it was torn down and replaced with a larger building.

Ocean Park Library

The White Rock Sun May 1973

The new Ocean Park public library has been open only a little more than four months, but already it has more than 1,500 members. Community Librarian Shirley Wilson, obviously pleased with the immediate success, says membership is growing all the time, with about 25 percent of the members children. Mrs. Wilson and her staff of three cheerful assistants; Flora Morton, Lee Rideout, and Cathy Pincombe are busy five days a week at the new library, from 10am to 5pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and from 10am until 9pm on Thursday and Fridays.
The Library, considered one of the district’s most attractive buildings with its red tile roof and Spanish architecture, is handy to all areas of the community in its landscaped setting just to the north of the Safeway Store in the Ocean Park shopping center.

In May 1972, as the community continued to grow, Surrey opened its library on Municipal property located behind the Ocean Park Safeway. This new library also had a lot to the north of the facility which could allow for future expansion. That need arose quickly as the community continued to grow rapidly. By the mid 1990s Surrey was considering plans to enlarge the Library. Safeway also needed to expand and approached Surrey with the idea of selling the site of the Library and having a new library built on the City owned lot just north of the Library. Public reaction was strongly opposed to this as the community felt that the sale of the land would restrict the future enlargement of the Library.

Surrey Council decided Monday not to sell the land occupied by the Ocean Park Library to Canada Safeway Ltd., which wanted the land for a store expansion. Safeway had been negotiating with the city of Surrey to buy about half of the 1.7 acres (0.68 hectares) of land around 17th Avenue near 128th Street. Surrey would use the money from the sale to build a new library on the grassy field beside the existing branch. The Community, however, rejected the plans for fear of losing city-owned land that could be used for the community.

Now: Wednesday Dec 9. 1998

Council also pushed to fast–track the Ocean Park Library branch renovation/expansion project, which is supposed to be done sometime next year. The City has $1.4 million set aside for the project. The new design will increase the size of the Library from 3,400 square feet to 6,250 square feet.

Library Demolishion

Surrey had the original ocean Park library pulled down in the spring of 1999 and construction began on a 6,500 sq. ft. building that virtually doubled the floor area of the original library. The vacant lot still exists to the north of the facility and allows for future expansion on the Library.

While the demolition and rebuilding took place the Library was relocated to a store front on the west side of 128th Street. A core of books, magazines and audio, video selections were maintained and inter–library loan for other titles was available. The new 6,500 sq. ft. Ocean Park Library was opened in May 2000.

The Ocean Park Library is a welcoming, comfortable library which invites families and individuals to browse, read and enjoy the 6,500 sq. ft.; wheelchair accessible facility. There is 400 sq. ft. of meeting space, with a bright and colourful children’s area and study spaces for individual learning. The Library also provides large print and audio book titles for those unable to read conventional print, bestsellers and classics on tape for listening pleasure, along with children’s story times and programs for everyone.

The following is a description of the new facility by
Nancy Brydle.

Our community is one of readers, as proved by the record amount of usage the new Ocean Park Library has seen since its opening in May. The new library is a cheerful place, suffused with light, even on those grey and drizzly days we so seldom see in Ocean Park. The comfy couches surrounding the news hounds, perusing the daily papers. Even over the summer, industrious students hide themselves away in the study carols working on essays or cramming for tomorrow’s exam. The younger patrons have enjoyed many interesting and varied programs this summer. There have been snakes and tarantulas, Harry Potter, enthusiastic drumming and magic. All sessions have been well attended and well received. Story times for all ages of youngster will be available in the fall. Call the library for specific times or drop by and pick up a brochure. The Internet stations are also very popular. Everyone wants to surf the net or send emails to friends and family far away. If you haven’t yet learned the mysteries of the net, the library offers classes. Please call to find out the date and time for the next session. Another popular concept of the new library is the meeting room with its beautiful view of the garden. Call the library to find out when the room is available for your group’s meeting or to learn about any upcoming speeches you may be interested in attending.

The Heritage Edition of the Ocean Parker. Page 20

Whalley Library

With the removal of tolls on the Patullo Bridge in 1952, rapid residential growth occurred in North Surrey and especially Whalley. A rising demand occurred for library services and in 1954 a branch of the FVRL opened in a portion of
Smith’s Men’s Wear Store. This branch operated until demand out-striped the limited facilities.

Pictures courtesy of Surrey Archives

The Whalley library moved to a new location in a former school building on the east side of King George Highway on 108th Avenue. This facility was used as a Municipal Sub-station where a number of municipal services were available. This L shaped building had access through an interior court yard.

Whalley Library's early locations

Map courtesy of Surrey Archives

Some years later the library moved to the west side of King George Highway about one half block south of 108th Avenue. This was a two story, square stucco building.

The Library’s address in 1973 had changed to 10667 – 135 A Street. It remained in this location until moving to 10347 – 135th Street.

Whalley Library

The Whalley Branch is located adjacent to the Surrey Central SkyTrain Station at 10347 – 135th Street from March 1977 until 2011 in a building that was once a plumbing supply store. At that time the purchase and renovation costs were $350,000, providing Surrey with a new and improved library of 10,600 square feet.

The Whalley Library underwent a major renovation in the Fall of 2002 to meet the increasing needs of its patrons. By 2009 it became clear that Surrey’s City Centre was growing and taking on new life, and plans for a new library began to take shape.

Surrey’s new iconic library.

The iconic “City Centre Library” at 10350 University Drive was built to replace the Whalley Library, and officially opened its doors on September 24, 2011.

The second floor of the new City Centre Library

The Bing Thom Architects–designed building went up quickly due to a compressed deadline in order to receive federal funding. “It was built about twice as fast as you would normally do,” said Michael Heeney, principle and executive director for Bing Thom Architects. Despite that, the $36–million project came in on time and on budget. (The federal and provincial governments each provided $10 million, with the City of Surrey funding the rest).

Below is an edited version of a story originally written by Kevin Diakiw for The Surrey North Delta Leader on Friday Aug. 19, 2011:

City Centre Library

The exterior walls of Surrey’s newest building lean back into what looks like a comfortable reading position. Entering the building, one is struck by the intense light provided by the design. The floor–to–ceiling windows splay outward, preventing direct sunlight, but affording ample ambient light, which is intensified by the all–white interior.

At the top of the four–storey building is what Heeney calls a halo skylight, a circular piece of glass with a white board hanging below it, causing a halo lighting effect. At one time of the day, the skylight will cast light on the Leader Living Room (named after this newspaper). Hours later, as the sun moves across the sky, the light will hit the laptop lounge.

The facility is equipped with a cafe, a children’s library, and a world languages area. The library also has an area called “Read–Ability,” which houses audio books, collections and a special computer for those who have vision disabilities.

There is even a meditation room, which also serves as a Muslim prayer room facing northeast to Mecca.

Architect Bing Thom approached the design from the notion that libraries are no longer just repositories for books. “The design evolved out of the need to provide space for reading, studying, and above all, gathering as a community,” Thom said. “This building is very flexible and will accommodate all of these purposes, but does so in a way that will intrigue and entice users through the building.” With that in mind, there are more than 80 public computers throughout the building, and WIFI access so those with laptops and tablets can access the Internet.

On one end of the third floor is a teen lounge with funky furniture, while on the other is a glassed–in quiet study area. In between, several sofas and a fireplace mark the Leader Living Room. On the second floor, several computers are lined up in the Computer Learning Centre, designed to help new users. Up on the fourth floor, the library features collections, rental rooms, study spaces and partner programming including the TD Community Engagement Centre as well as Simon Fraser University initiatives. The City Centre Library houses 120,000 books (with capacity for 150,000). From a regional perspective, it is the third largest library in Metro Vancouver, after Vancouver’’s Central Library and Burnaby’s Metrotown Branch.

The City Centre Library boasts a number of “green” features, including a green roof and a LEED Gold designation. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system.

Surrey’s new iconic library set to open. An edited version of the story by Kevin Diakiw –

Surrey North Delta Leader
. Friday, 8/19/11

Fleetwood Library opened in 1995

Fleetwood Library

Built in 1995, this 13,300 sq. ft library is part of a community centre.

Fleetwood Library opened Saturday June 24th at 10 am. The new facility has something for everyone and it is; “great place to relax, learn, read, study and make friends.” The newest addition to Surrey’s library system boasts a variety of computer services, including a world processing centre, complete with a laser printer, for the public.

Now Jun 24, 1995

Strawberry Hill Library opened in 2000

Strawberry Hill Library

The Strawberry Hill Branch designed by B. James Wensley Architect Ltd., is a welcoming library which invites families and individuals to read, browse and enjoy. This 11,200 sq. ft. library has a large multilingual collection, particularly in Panjabi, and Panjabi-speaking staff. There is also an electronic classroom offering free computer access, as well as a language lab with English learning software.

In 2004 Strawberry Hill’s Electronic Classroom wins the Library Net Best Practices Award.

Semiahmoo Library opened in 2003

In 2001 planning was underway for a new branch in South Surrey. Semiahmoo Library opened Saturday September 13, 2003.

It is located on the corner of 18th avenue and 152nd street, the new building houses both a 22,000 square foot library and the South Surrey RCMP District Office providing a focus for community services and information. The Library offers conventional leisure reading, research and information materials. It opens doors to knowledge, learning, skill and contacts that serve and support the home and work lives of its customers. The Semiahmoo Library is considered the first “green” library in Canada.

In 2004 Semiahmoo Library wins a silver LEEDS award: this is a US Green Building rating for environmental design.

Semiahmoo Library is a welcoming, comfortable 22,200 sq. ft. facility which invites families and individuals to browse and enjoy. Public art is part of the design. It contains an information resource centre for South Surrey, book collections for adults and children, subscriptions to over 200 newspapers and magazines, as well as music CDs, videos and CD-ROMs, classic and bestseller books on CD for listening pleasure. There is also a bright and colourful children’s area, with children’s Story times and programs. There are opportunities for learning for everyone. That is encouraged with comfortable seating for relaxing and reading, and study spaces to meet a variety of needs (individuals, group study, quiet) Access to the internet and other electronic resources plus an electronic classroom for public training.

  • Surrey Archives: Library folder and picture collection
  • Surrey Public Library: Cloverdale Branch, scrap book with miscellaneous clippings and photos
  • Surrey Public Library web site: http://www.spl.surrey.bc.ca.bc.ca
  • White Rock Archives: library photos
  • The Heritage Edition of the Ocean Parker
    Lorraine Ellenwood
  • Ocean Park and Whalley Branches: information assistance
  • Our Story: undated, anonymous story of early history of the Fraser Valley Regional Library
  • Ocean Park Branch: picture of painting of the Ocean Park book mobile
  • Librarian, April Cox updated the history of City Centre Library.

Spl Surrey Bc Ca My Account

Source: https://www.surreyhistory.ca/splibrary.html